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Game 130: Twins at White Sox

It’ll be Sonny Gray, Minnesota’s best starter, in this “maybe we can catch Cleveland” contest.

Detroit Tigers vs Chicago White Sox - August 13, 2006
In which the umpire is saying, “that’s close enough, A.J.”
Photo by Chuck Rydlewski/Getty Images

Start time: 7:10 Central

Weather: Partly cloudy, mild wind gusts, first pitch 72°

Opponent’s SB site (with cool article photo layout): South Side Sox

TV: BSN. Radio: I wanna bite the hand that feeds me, I wanna bite that hand so badly

Rookie starter Davis Martin (which sounds like a Rat Pack act) had fairly mediocre minor-league numbers... until he hit AA, and started striking out everybody. Unimpressive in AAA, he made his debut in May as the “extra guy” for a doubleheader and has been sporadically up/down since. Digits:

Martin throws a 94-ish fastball and the standard offspeed stuff. His slider, which he uses often, is his best pitch.

There’s been a very interesting development in the Ongoing Saga Of Crappily-Paid Minor Leaguers recently. Mike Axisa of CBS Sports has the rundown here.

Basically, the MLBPA is offering union representation to minor league players, if they want it. On Sunday, MLBPA sent every affiliated minor leaguer an “authorization form,” and if 30% of players return it saying “yes, let’s vote on forming a union,” then all the minor leaguers would vote on whether to unionize or not.

This is the way you form a union under current labor law. If you skip one of these steps, you can’t form a union. Also, companies aren’t supposed to interfere via pressuring or threatening employees thinking about forming a union. (Except, they do, all the time, and this is illegal, and they almost always get away with it.)

According to MLBPA executive director Tony Clark, the current authorization steps have been long in the making, saying that “the experiences from the last couple of years obviously had guys asking questions and offering commentary.” Meaning, probably, MLB’s recent decisions to eliminate several minor league teams and turn others into amateur “wooden bat” leagues.

There is no knowing what minor league players will decide, but Clark says there’s already been tremendous response returning authorization forms. And the nonprofit group Advocates For Minor Leaguers has now been absorbed by the MLBPA. They probably wouldn’t have agreed to do that if they didn’t think minor leaguers have a good shot at certifying their union.

What’s unclear is how, exactly, the minor league union would operate. The best I can tell, it would make its own negotiating decisions yet have access to MLBPA legal/financial support. That’s always been an obstacle to them forming a union. MLB can afford very expensive lawyers, like Rob Manfred. While minor leaguers have had to rely on sympathetic lawyers, like the ex-player Garrett Broshius, bringing suit about things like violations of minimum-wage laws.

Another obstacle has been that minor leaguers, as MLBPA’s Gene Orza put it in this 2012 Slate article, “don’t want to tick off [the club] by being the person who forms the union.” In that same article, Marvin Miller (the original legal organizer of the MLBPA back in the 1960s), said that while he’d considered including minor leaguers in the players’ union, it was too much of a challenge to convince them that they weren’t all going to get rich pretty soon on their own.

I’m assuming you all already know how lousily minor leaguers are paid (they only recently got a housing allowance, for Pete’s sakes). And if you’re fine with it, because “that’s how the free market is supposed to work,” you A) are a jerk and B) don’t understand the words you’re using. As Pat Garofalo writes here, not only did the 2018 “Save America’s Pastime Act” exempt minor leaguers from federal employment laws, but some bought-and-paid-for politicians have taken steps to exempt them from state laws, as well. (State minimum wages are often higher than the national minimum wage.) This is not a free labor market. (And some of these players have families, you know!)

That CBS Sports article by Axisa has some numbers which might open your eyes, too. NBA minor leaguers are paid $38,000 a season. NHL minor leaguers, $51,000. Baseball minor leaguers, between $1600 and $2800 a month, based on level. (This is more than it was a few years ago.) And they’re only paid during the season – not even during spring training. That’s five months, so, $8000 to $14,000 annually.

NBA minor leaguers are usually competing for “last guy on the bench” roles on NBA teams, with only rare exceptions ever receiving major playing time. Future NBA stars play right away in the NBA. NHL minor leaguers are more like baseball ones, in that even the future stars need some time in the minors.

And MLB makes way, way more money than the NHL. They could pay their minor leaguers as much, if not more.

Of course, the “bonus babies” – those highly-regarded draft picks expected to become future stars – don’t have to worry about money, at least not at first. Yet sometimes tomorrow’s stars are today’s unheralded minor league “depth signings” (Luis Arraez was never considered a hot prospect.) And even players with almost zero chance at making the majors are important as teammates and competitive opponents. Prospects can’t improve just by taking batting practice against a pitching machine.

I have one more question: why is the MLBPA supporting a minor league union now?

As recently as 2018, this NPR article was unable to get an official statement from Clark or the MLBPA on minor league pay issues, besides vague language about being “empathetic.” And the wonderful Craig Calcaterra, a lawyer before he was a writer, thought that the “Save America’s Pastime Act” had pretty much doomed legal efforts to improve minor league pay.

Recently, however, a suit brought by the aforementioned Broshius (among others) got MLB to settle for $185 million in penalties for violating labor law (at least, as the law stood before the “Save America’s Pastime Act” was passed). The suit spent eight years in court, and will amount to around $5250 in back pay per player, so it’s not a big win. But it’s still a win, though.

And the MLBPA, which got absolutely steamrolled in the last CBA negotiations, might be interested in boosting their oomph by pairing up with some workers who can actually get a win against MLB.

Hmm, I wonder... are there any other sports-related corporations which have been relying on free or nearly-free labor for years? That have recently been cutting back on team affiliates?



Nope, none come to mind.

And finally, a sequel of sorts to the news we brought you last Friday about a couple Getting Nasty at an A’s game. Guess what, sex is catching on! Now it’s happened at a Blue Jays game. And while that one was rather simple, if flagrant, this one involved full face-to-face romance, as it were.

To which I can only say, ah, the wonders of youth. Such a position is beyond my ability at this juncture. Also, the dumbness of youth — some things are what God invented fingers for.

Over at his Field Of Schemes website, Neil deMause provided us with this helpful link describing some other occasions in which people have gotten Inappropriately Randy at Blue Jays games. Those ones involved the hotel rooms with full patio-sized windows up in center field. Each of the perpetrators (peepetrators?) thought that the patio windows were one-way glass, and weren’t charged with committing an indecent act. Because, they said, they didn’t know anyone could see them.

Sure, folks. Suuuuuuuure.

Today's Lineups

Luis Arraez - 1B Elvis Andrus - SS
Carlos Correa - SS Andrew Vaughn - 1B
Max Kepler - RF Jose Abreu - DH
Jose Miranda - DH Gavin Sheets - RF
Nick Gordon - 2B Yasmani Grandal - C
Gio Urshela - 3B AJ Pollock - CF
Jake Cave - LF Leury Garcia - LF
Gary Sanchez - C Josh Harrison - 3B
Gilberto Celestino - CF Romy Gonzalez - 2B
Sonny Gray - RHP Davis Martin - RHP